A new year comes with great goals, especially when it comes to growing your business. But in order to achieve them, you need processes that are built to scale with a growing business, like yours. Obviously, an RFP response process is an essential part of the sales cycle and, in order to help your team meeting their growth targets, it needs to be scalable.
When it comes to a content library, we can say that it’s never static, as it’s in a constant need for attention, consideration, and cultivation. Your RFP team can reach to a lot of leaders in the marketing departments, hoping to get them to participate in an RFP, but you, as an executive, should also be aware of the opportunity that a request for proposal presents, in order to fine-tune your already existing marketing content and messaging, but also increase the effectiveness of the content itself.
We’ve covered the best practices to improve your RFP response process in the past, but as time passes and the market evolves, such guides are in line for updates.
If you need to improve your RFP response process in 2019, then you’re in the right place, as we’ve put together a list with the actual things you need, in order to do it properly.
How to improve your RFP response process in 2019
1. Decide whether the RFP is worth responding to
First thing’s first, you should know that without a clear structure in place, through which you can evaluate if an RFP is actually worth responding to, you’re going to spend important amounts of time focusing on a proposal which could turn out to be just not what your business needs. And this is not a scalable way of working.
Start with establishing a go/no-go type of evaluation process, as it can be your first line of defense in saving time and energy for Subject Matter Experts, but also sales and proposal teams. With a process like this in place, you will have a way of evaluating incoming requests for proposals that everybody involved in the response process will be well-aligned on.
In the end, with such a resource at your disposal, you will be able to determine the key factors to include when developing an evaluation process.
Keeping it short: see if an RFP fits your business, check your relationship with the prospect and the timing, look for competitor language in the RFP and, last but not least, consider the deadline and the amount of time and resources you will need to put together a response.
2. Optimize the structure of your RFP team
The team behind it plays a very important role in the entire RFP response process and, unfortunately, there is no such thing as a one-size fits all structure. Therefore, how the response team is structured depends solely on your business needs.
There are two main team models: centralized and, of course, decentralized. However, most teams are sitting somewhere in the middle, opting for a hybrid approach, as both models mentioned earlier have their pros and cons.
If you opt for the decentralized model, the task of responding is in the receiver’s hands. Sure, this works very well when an answer is needed as fast as possible or when the sales team already has the information they need to respond. On the other side, centralized models put the RFP response in the hands of a team or a proposal manager, allowing a more streamlined process.
In order to improve the way you approach your RFP response process, the idea is to test both of these variants – if you opted for a hybrid model until now – and see which one actually fits best your needs. But regardless of this, you need to develop and efficient response process, then focus on aspects like communication, making company knowledge, as well as the content accessible, streamline collaboration and, last but not least, create alignment.
3. Move your content to a centralized knowledge library
When generating an answer to an RFP, you definitely need a lot of pre-made content. And by this, we mean information put together in a management software, with an intelligent centralized answer library. With something like this in place, both marketing and sales teams can observe the effectiveness of various messages, when working with different customers.
When you have a single, centralized knowledge library, it becomes the only source of truth for responses to customers. Also, by having an entire repository of content, which can be used to address specific questions, you can also turn it into a valuable asset in time.
Instead of having to do tons of research each time your company responds to a request for proposal, your team can check out the library and get the exact answers they need.
4. Build relationships for RFP success
Establishing great relationships will give you an advantage over your competitors, as it helps potential clients understand you, your product or services, as well as what’s in for them if they are going to work with you. By doing this, when a new client comes with an RFP, they will already know what you’re doing, but also what team and skills you have.
It’s essential to have a relationship ahead of time – when you receive an RFP, you can contact the person issuing it and find out the background. Therefore, you can find if it’s worth your time or it’s just a situation where the issuer needs to fill a procurement quota.
The idea is that research is essential for your RFPs, as it can increase your win rate. Automatically, it also helps you get the most out of every conversation with a prospect, in order to offer custom RFP responses, in the best possible way.
5. Reach out to your prospects
After you’ve done your research, you can create a list of detailed questions for any potential client, as this will ease your RFP response process, even before actually starting it. And what better way to find out answers to vital questions than asking prospects directly, by reaching out to them?
There will be cases when you will find essential information about prospects, so you can understand exactly what do you need to share about your business, so they can understand the value of the solution you’re providing. That’s also great for communicating with RFP writers, because they can create better content.
In order to ensure that your RFP has the best chance of being picked, there are a few more practical steps you can take, steps often ignored by some organization because they just don’t have a follow-up strategy. But you can create one, as this can help you improve your overall RFP response process.
To be more specific, after you submit your RFP, simply confirm that the issuer received it. This is a great opportunity to continue the dialogue with the actual decision-maker, as a simple email gives them the impression that you can’t wait to start doing business with them. Simple as that.
The idea is that you must have a plan for following up. Just think of the issuer’s needs and you’ll always know what messages you can send.
6. Use RFP automation software
Last but not least, this is probably the most important step in your mission to improve your RFP response process in 2019: use a system that allows you to communicate and have a place to discuss issues internally with your team, but also where you can store your entire content.
An RFP automation software is essential to keep track of the entire process and save precious time, but also make sure everything goes according to the plan.
The capability to re-use knowledge assets in RFP responses is the single most important reason why we’ve built Kaito. Companies create lots of RFP content over the time (lots of duplicates as well), but since it’s not centralized and structured, it’s very hard to find the response to a particular requirement.
Kaito allows you to import your RFP files in the system as a set of requirements (or questions), build the responses using Kaito’s suggestions, and export the completed RFP in the original file, or other templates. These suggestions are based on our Machine Learning – powered engine that identifies similar questions in the existing content. The more you use Kaito, the more the suggestions become accurate.
To sum up, there’s no doubt that one of the first things you need to do this year, in your attempt to improve your RFP response process, is to have a proper internal knowledge management platform. Failure to do so can lead to content management pitfalls, such as not motivating sellers to weigh in on content, not aligning your content with the buyer’s journey or even underestimating the importance of integration of various tools.
Kaito supports your efforts of improving your RFP response process, being able to identify the best answer from a set of similar ones, based on date, author, number of re-uses, user votes, and context (the best answer for an RFP may not be the same as the best answer for another, even if the question is the same).
On the short term, it supports the response process by making it more efficient to build the responses, while on the longer term, it avoids knowledge loss by building an RFP intelligence base. Kaito exposes the knowledge you have, makes it portable, and helps highlight what you don’t have so that you can fill the gaps.